Kurt Helin

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Thaddeus Young says Nets told him he, Brook Lopez will be kept in Brooklyn

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Sean Marks has the toughest front office job in the NBA.

The Brooklyn GM is expected to rebuild a Nets team devoid of assets — for example, their first round pick this season goes to the Celtics, unprotected — back into something respectable. One way to do that might be to trade the couple quality veterans on the roster, Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, for younger players and picks. Start restocking the shelves.

Don’t bet on it. At least not in the short term. From Andy Vasquez of the Bergen Record:

We all know that Marks would move those two veterans in a heartbeat, but he’s not going to sell them at a discount. And he’s not about to let on he would move them and give up what little negotiating leverage he has. You can be sure all the calls Marks gets right now — and likely through the draft — are simply vultures trying to pick the carcass of the Nets clean. Marks can afford to be patient, wait for an offer that would be a win for his team.

Lopez has two seasons for a total of $43.8 million still on the books, and Young has three years and $39.3 million remaining (the final year is a player option). When the salary cap jumps after July 1 Marks could get better offers as teams can fit them into their cap space, and both are quality role players who could help a team win right now. The offers will improve, if not this summer then into next season (maybe after a team loses a player to injury and is looking for a replacement).

Nets fans, you just have to be patient. This is a long road.

Report: Kenny Smith out of Rockets coaching search; Vogel, Van Gundy still in

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Come on now. You didn’t really think that with his job likely on the line with this hire Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey was going to hire a guy right out of the broadcast studio who has never been a coach nor ever worked in a front office? Now is not the time for a gamble hire in Houston, it’s time to get someone who knows how to do the job.

Meaning TNT’s Inside the NBA will get to keep Kenny “The Jet” Smith as he will not be hired by the Rockets, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Former Rockets guard Kenny Smith will no longer be a candidate to be Rockets head coach, a person with knowledge of the decision said Monday on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the process.

Smith was described as very impressive and likely to become an NBA head coach if he pursues it, the individual familiar with the decision-making said, but the Rockets will shift their focus to experienced head coaches and extremely experienced assistants.

The rumor is former Knicks and Rockets coach turned analyst Jeff Van Gundy is at the front of the line — even though there has been no formal meeting between Van Gundy and Morey. Those two men know each other, Feigen points out, while Morey is still getting to know other candidates such as Frank Vogel, David Blatt, Jeff Hornacek, Mike D’Antoni, and Sam Cassell.

Both Van Gundy and Vogel seem like fits on the surface. The Rockets need a coach that can get this team back to defending, and both coaches are defense-first guys who did just that with varied rosters. Offensively neither is know for running the most complicated sets, but with the Rockets there is going to be a lot of James Harden pick-and-roll regardless of coach.

If the Rockets have a real interest in Vogel, they may need to move quickly as his name has come up in the New York and Orlando coaching searches already.

Russell Westbrook on Stephen Curry: “He’s not nothing I haven’t seen”

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Russell Westbrook is going to be matched up defensively on Stephen Curry (as he was almost every time they met the last couple seasons) when the Warriors and Thunder tip off Monday night. There will be switching and cross matching (a lot in this series), but it is not overstating the facts to say if Westbrook isn’t great defensively the Thunder cannot win.

Westbrook doesn’t lack for confidence. Here is what he said at shootaround Monday, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

If you didn’t watch the video, here is the money quote:

“He’s a shooter. He’s not nothing I haven’t seen. Him, (Damian) Lillard, guys like that can shoot the basketball from four or five feet behind the three. You got to do a little, different job. Just be physical.”

We’re just going to ignore the double negative.

You hear this a lot from casual fans, “teams should just push Curry around, he can’t handle it.” Yes, he can. He’s been handling it since Davidson. If you don’t think NBA teams have gone down this road before — and especially this season when the referees seemed to back off a few degrees on calling hand checking — then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s not that simple.

Tony Parker was able to create space at times against Westbrook last round (especially when they chased him over the top of picks for a while), but the result was mid-range jumpers, mostly. Do that to Curry and he will drive the rim harder (he’s become a good finisher inside), he will step back for the three, or he draws some help and then finds one of the four other shooters on the floor. Plus, if you’re Westbrook, get too physical, and you risk foul trouble.

Westbrook (and everyone) will try to make Curry put the ball on the floor and force him to drive. It’s what must be done, the Thunder can’t have Curry just raining threes, but it’s not easy to slow Curry even if you chase him off the line. Or the Warriors’ offense because Curry’s gravity draws defenders to him and it opens up shooting room for Klay Thompson, space for Draymond Green to be a playmaker, and a host of other problems.

But at least Westbrook is confident.

Oklahoma City vs. Golden State preview: Five Things to Watch

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For 82 games it felt like San Antonio was destined to be the final hurdle between the Warriors and a second straight trip to the Finals. Instead, it’s the far more athletic Thunder. You can bet the NBA’s broadcast partners are good with this outcome, but will it make a more interesting series? Here are five key things to consider:

1) Can Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder starters go off in this series? There isn’t a big secret here: the Thunder need both Westbrook and Durant to play at their peak this series to have a shot. They need more than that — a defensive performance like OKC had against the Spurs, role players stepping up — but none of it matters if KD and Russ are not the cornerstones. Durant has been a thorn in the Warriors’ side averaging 36.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting against them this season, in part because the Warriors have no good defensive matchup for him (unless they want to risk foul trouble on Draymond Green). Andre Iguodala had the most success and likely sees plenty of time on him, but put KD on your daily fantasy teams. Westbrook, on the other hand, shot just 34.7 percent against Golden State this season — that number must improve, and he must not have many turnovers this series, or it will be trouble for OKC.

It can’t be just the big two, the Thunder will need Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, and others to step up. That said the Thunder starters have had success in this matchup. As noted by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, the Thunder’s usual starting five were a plus-23 in 32 minutes against Golden State, playing phenomenal defense. But when Billy Donovan went to the bench things fell apart.

2) Will the big Thunder lineup with Enes Kanter and Steven Adams work against Golden State? Going big won the Thunder the series against the Spurs — when Adams and Kanter were on the court together the Thunder out-scored the Spurs by 27 points in 66 minutes, the rest of the Thunder lineups combined were a -30 to the Spurs. But is that going to work against Golden State? Donovan is going to try it — he’s going to stay big this series because he doesn’t want to go small and try to out Warrior the Warriors —  but when the Thunder roll out Adams/Kanter the Warriors will go small, spread the floor and expose the lack of foot speed those to have relative to Golden State’s guys. The Warriors move the ball better and are more versatile than the Spurs, and they can expose these kinds of lineups and carve them up.

3) Can the Thunder defend for a series like they did for at times against the Spurs? Give Billy Donovan and the Thunder credit: during wide swaths of the last series they defended as well as anyone recalls for this squad. They were locked in, used their athleticism, cut off passing lanes and preferred options, and sucked the Spurs into their game. The book on the Thunder defense was (and remains) that you can get them scrambling, you can force rotation errors and other mistakes, it just takes excellent ball movement. The Spurs showed that in Game 1 of the last round, but as the Thunder defense improved the Spurs ball movement did not and OKC was able to stymie San Antonio. Golden State is an entirely different level of test for Oklahoma City — the Warriors have great ball movement from nearly everyone on the roster, and they have high IQ players that make the right reads. Especially with the “death lineup” where Green plays the center. Sleep on one Stephen Curry pick-and-roll and you pay with a three — the Thunder plan is to show out and dare him to drive (and that will test his knee), but that is an area Curry has improved this season. The Thunder will make a commitment to running Klay Thompson off the arc, something true of all the Golden State players. This Warriors offense stretches teams and makes them pay for mistakes, the Thunder can’t afford to make many.

There is a corollary question here: Does OKC have an answer for the Warriors small ball lineups? This ties into the question above, but it warrants its own discussion. With bigs — Adams, Kanter, Serge Ibaka — playing significant roles for Oklahoma City, expect Golden State to counter with a lot of Draymond Green at center and small lineups. How are the Thunder going to handle this? No team has had a good answer yet.

4) Festus Ezeli has to step up for Golden State.  Don’t expect to see Andrew Bogut completely healthy to the start this series, which means Ezeli will play a bigger role. This is not a bad matchup for the Warriors; he’s athletic enough to bang inside with Adams and he can get some points at the rim if the Thunder lose track of him. Ezeli has the toughness inside to have some real battles with Adams inside on the glass. The free agent will be put on a big stage with the chance to up his payday in this series.

5) Enjoy the shootout. Westbrook and Curry are going to trade off taking a lot of shots (and expect Donovan to put Westbrook on Curry for stretches). Durant is going to go off for some wicked scoring nights. Draymond Green is to be a brilliant playmaker. Expect (as always seems to happen) some role players for the Warriors — Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, etc. — to go off and help the big two nightly. There are going to be spectacular dunks and long-range shooting exhibitions. This series is going to be entertaining. Enjoy it.

Prediction: Warriors in six. I wouldn’t be surprised if this series is 2-2 after the first four games, but the Warriors versatility allows them to adjust and adapt better than other squads. Oklahoma City needs specific things to happen to win this series (and maybe they can push it seven games), but the Warriors will figure out what works and go on a run that gets them back to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers announce jersey patch deal with StubHub

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Adam Silver and a vote of the owners has cleared the way, and by the 2017-18 season every team will have an advertisers patch on the left shoulder. Purists will howl because that is what they do, but there was a Kia patch on the NBA All-Star Game jerseys this past season and it was met with a collective yawn by the public.

The 76ers have announced a deal with secondary ticket market broker StubHub to sponsor their jerseys starting in the fall of 2017 (the season after next), the team has announced Monday. They are the first team to strike and announce a deal.

“This marks another groundbreaking first for the Philadelphia 76ers and StubHub. Our brands are now inextricably linked as we create lifelong memories for our fans in Philadelphia and around the world,” Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said in a statement. “Our partnership with StubHub continues to generate progressive and forward-thinking platforms created to improve the fan experience and advance our industry.”

While there had been resistance from some owners, the NBA had been moving toward doing this for some time. Is it about making more money? Duh. Sorry to break it to you, but this is a business. It’s an entertainment business that counts on people being emotionally invested in the product, but it’s still a business. These NBA owners didn’t get to be billionaires by leaving a few million on the table.

While the finances of the deal were not publicly made official, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports this is a three-year deal at $5 million per year. That’s more than most teams expected to be available (or at least that number was thought to be the max teams in L.A. or New York would get). This may bring in more revenue than expected.

The league approved a three-year trial of this program then the owners will revisit the issue (if you think the owners are going to give back a revenue stream after three years, I’d like to sell you a bridge).

The NBA is not going NASCAR with the number of patches, nor is it going European soccer (or WNBA) where the name across the front of the jersey gets replaced by corporate sponsorships. This is one small patch on the left shoulder. But go ahead and howl in the comments.